By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — FAIRFIELD — Fairfield is a community that prides itself in the mass amounts of tourism that it continues to provide southeast Iowa.
As strange as that sounds, Jefferson County is enjoying an influx of tourists that are paving the way for economic development. The Fairfield Convention and Visitors Bureau recently released its annual report for the past fiscal year (July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013), and the results were very positive.
In the past fiscal year, there was a 14.2 percent increase in tourism revenue from the previous year, bringing the tourism industry $38.85 million. Comparatively, the state increased 5.6 percent in the same time frame.
The hotel-motel tax that was put in place in 2005 has also generated a mass amount of dollars, and it all goes into funding for programs and events in the area that are important to the area. The tax has increased revenue by 31 percent since it was created and saw a 12.3 percent increase from 2012, generating more than $130,000 that will be reinvested into the community.
Fairfield is driving a tourism industry that is getting recognition from other parts of the nation, also. The Fairfield Convention and Visitors Bureau developed a marketing campaign to bring in a writer from the Smithsonian Magazine, and they named Fairfield as the No. 7 best small town to visit in America for 2013.
“Fairfield prides itself on its arts and culture,” said Rustin Lippincott of the Fairfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “She [the writer] got to experience how we live.”
The simplest reason for the increase in recognition and tourism, according to Lippincott, is because “we [Fairfield] have a lot going on.”
Some of the programs that the convention and visitors bureau have been working on besides the marketing campaign for the magazine include a Fairfield digital app, an audio tour for the local Masdaam barns and Destination Fairfield, which allows locals to explain the best spots in town to tourists.
Tourists are coming to the area for more than just an overnight stay, and they are spending money while they are here, according to Lippincott. With that, Jefferson County employs 300 workers to help tourists with their needs. So, not only does Fairfield and Jefferson County make for destination possibilities for nonlocals, but it also provides jobs to those who call southeast Iowa home.
The growth of the Fairfield tourism industry will continue to add to the growth of the area and serve as an economic driver for the community, Lippincott said. As long as the community does its part to help promote the wonders of the area, tourists will continue to make southeast Iowa a destination spot, he added.
“If we can come together to provide better reasons to come here, we will benefit,” Lippincott said. “It helps us all; everyone wins with tourism.”
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh